The future of science comes through Wikipedia.

Italian version by Francesca Ussani, Communication Manager, Wikimedia Italia

Translated by David N. Winkler, Ph.D.

Can complex scientific concepts  be communicated to the public through the pages of Wikipedia? According to team members of the Q-SORTproject (A New Era in Electron Microscopy, financed by the European Union), they not only can, but they must be. The free encyclopedia is an extremely efficient instrument for making the evidence and evolution of scientific research available to the widest possible audience.

We work on frontier thematics related to the electron microscopy sector”, explained Vincenzo Grillo, researcher at CNR-NANO and Principal Investigator of Q-SORT, “and ours is one of the few projects financed by the European Union as part of the FET-OPENprogramme that does not necessarily foresee an immediate industrial application: it has to do, rather, with fundamental research in an as-yet rather unexplored field. When we considered presenting to the general public the results of our work and advances in our field, we found a voice in the free encyclopedia.”

It was from this reflection that our edit-a-thon (a writing event on Wikipedia) was born – the first of three that will be organized during this project. The event took place on Sunday, May 27, 2018 in Germany at Forschungszentrum Jülichas part of the International Conference on Electron Beam Shaping in Space and Time.

The event began with a training session, during which attendants learned the basic procedures and guidelines for contributing to the encyclopedia. Special attention was given to the creation, improvement, and translation of specific articles in English, beginning with academic literature made available by the organizers.

A page on electron vortex beamswas created, while pages on electron optics, interaction-free measurementsand bessel beamswere expanded. These articles  needed to be updated or enriched with more references, which were added by the participants of the edit-a-thon.

“It is very important to us to make available on Wikipedia correct and complete information so that the greatest number of people that access the encyclopedia can discover our material”, Vincenzo explained, “in the same way as I do myself when, to avoid consulting academic papers, I open Wikipedia to quickly retrieve formulae or specific information.”

With the objective of making scientific knowledge ever more accessible, the Q-SORT team also decided to provide open access to their academic publications: a forward looking decision, considering that Wikipedia is among the top ten access channelsto academic papers that are published on the internet.

For more information on the edit-a-thon, see the project page on Wikipedia.

In the image: A scientist uses a transmission electron microscope. By CSIRO, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons